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Tradies not as wealthy as we think concludes University of Canberra research

Tradespeople are not nearly as wealthy as our image of them suggests, with wages “consistently” falling for the lowest paid tradies, a University of Canberra researcher has found.

Head of economics and director of the Centre for Labour Market Research, Professor Phil Lewis will outline the findings of a project into what tradespeople earn at a conference in Sydney today.

“We started this research to dispel the myth that plumbers are driving around in Rolls Royces. In general tradespeople are not nearly as wealthy as they are made out to be,” Professor Lewis said.

“You have to be in the right trade, in the right place, at the right time to earn big bucks. The lowest paid tradespersons’ relative earnings have fallen consistently over time.”

Professor Lewis examined salaries across different trades in the period from 1991 to 2006 near the height of the economic boom. He found the richest 20 percent of tradespeople saw their earnings rise significantly, but the poorest 20 percent did much worse across all trades, including the apparently lucrative construction and mechanical sectors.

“In every trade and across every region, the poorest tradespeople have become poorer.”

Remote areas produced some interesting data with some tradespeople earning significantly more than the national median, while others struggled.

“Remote regions are the worst and the best places to be for tradespeople. In a sought-after trade in areas where the resources sector is booming, you might earn double the national median salary, but in other remote areas, the local economy can barely support tradespeople whatever their skills.”

Professor Lewis found qualified workers in food and agricultural trades earned less than the national median throughout the period covered by the research, which was a disincentive to spend time training for qualifications in those sectors. He also found migration had effectively plugged skilled gaps, further reducing wages in these areas.

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David Olsen

David Olsen

An undercover economist and a not so undercover geek. Politics, business and psychology nerd and anti-bandwagon jumper. Can be found on Twitter: <a href="http://www.twitter.com/DDsD">David Olsen - DDsD</a>

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